Story of North Shields war hero to be told in new play

The remarkable story of a North Shields teenager who played his part in helping break the Enigma Code is to be told in a play.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 7:00 am

Thomas Brown was 15 when he signed up underage for the NAAFI during Second World War.

During the war, he helped salvage vital Enigma Code documents from a sinking German U-Boat.

Today (Thursday) marks the 75th anniversary of Brown’s death when, still only 19, he died in a house fire along with his four-year-old sister Maureen at the family home on the Ridges Estate

The date is to be commemorated at The Exchange, North Shields, in an event hosted by Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell on Saturday, at 1.30pm.

It will also give a first glimpse of an extract from the play which is being written by Cullercoats playwright Peter Mortimer and will be performed in November by Cloud Nine Theatre Company.

Members of the Brown family, including Thomas’ niece Lynn Melville will also be contributing.

Brown’s heroics in rescuing the documents, when along with two others he plunged into the sea and swam over to the submarine, saw him awarded the George Medal, but his untimely death and the requirements of the Official Secrets Act meant he never lived to receive it.

Brown was serving on the destroyer HMS Petard in the Mediterranean in 1942 when the ship disabled the U-Boat. He was the only one of the three swimmers to survive, but the acquisition of the documents allowed Bletchley Park to crack the vital Enigma Code within weeks and is thought to have shortened the war by several months, saving hundred of lives.

The only previous dramatisation of the events was the American blockbuster film U571 which wrongly gave the credit to the American navy with no mention of the three British heroes.

Peter Mortimer, who has been working on the play for two years, said: “The US navy was nowhere near, so now the real story can be told at last.

“Thomas Brown is an undoubted local hero, but never properly acknowledged.”